Technology can be an amazing thing. The sheer amount of things that you can do, both online and in physical life, is amazing. It was only a few years ago that you had to see a teller in order to get cash processed at the bank, you had to use a phone book to look up a phone number, and the list continues.
However, with the advent of all this technology and with the rate of increase of our interconnected lives, there is more data out there to be had easily by machines that can track down the most simple things and record it permanently.
Take, for instance, MyBlogLog. This website lets you put a script on your site that does some statistics keeping but the main benefit (that I can see) is the ability to see who has come to your site– even if they chose not to leave a comment. This is a trade-off of privacy for the fact that you can leave your mark on a site without commenting, and maybe the site owner will come back to see your site. Should you find yourself on a site that you did not wish to be at, or do not want to leave a record of your visit, you can delete your mark. Same thing with whether you want to leave the record of someone who visited your site.
However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. You see, we all know that many more people visit our sites than comment, can be seen as a MyBlogLog icon or have any form of identity about them. We may not know about them, but our increasingly interconnected web does.
Do you have a Google account? I find that many times when I visit blogger sites, I have to make sure that when I comment I choose not to use my real name and link, but change it to my pseudonym with a link to this site. It knows my name.
Do you have an Amazon account? Ever notice that certain sites have a badge that lets you donate money and refers to you by first name?
How about those sites that let you peek behind the curtain and see that computers know your general location, your speed with accessing the web, what operating system you are running, etc?
I’m not trying to scare you, but this next generation of computing is going to be much more information based– information that they are collecting each time you go online. Google says as much:
Google’s ambition to maximise the personal information it holds on users is so great that the search engine envisages a day when it can tell people what jobs to take and how they might spend their days off.
Think about how many tools that you use that are Google’s… GMail, Widgets, Desktop Search, AdSense, Analytics, Docs… the list goes on. You have to know that the ads you see in your e-mail come from AdSense that read your e-mail looking for keywords to choose the ads that it showed you.
I’m not saying that there are people that are reading everything you do– but that a computer is and that the information is there. At some point we each have to come to realization that we are trading Privacy for Personalization– and make sure we’re ok with that.